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Setting up a delivery service for your restaurant

5 min read

Sitting in front of the telly and ordering a takeaway may be one of life’s guilty pleasures, and these days, restaurant delivery services are all the rage. But if you’ve enjoyed running a successful dine-in restaurant, is it worth starting a food delivery business? In this guide we’ll look at the pros and cons of selling your delightful dishes through a delivery service.

Why set up a restaurant delivery service?

Many people may argue that offering a takeaway service is a good way to pandemic-proof your business. According to a report by the British Takeaway Campaign (full report here) (PDF)(full report here) (PDF), UK households spent an average of £45 per month on takeaways in 2020. This total spend (£15.1 billion) was a 12% increase on 2019. If your restaurant doesn’t offer a home delivery service, could you be missing out on sales?

On the other hand, if you’re using a third party restaurant delivery service, you may have to pay commission and delivery charges, which could eat into your revenue. You may also lose the ability to brand your takeaway service in the way you prefer; for example, the third party courier might insist on using their logos and marketing collateral.

What licenses do I need to deliver food?

As with any restaurant or takeaway, you should ensure you have a food business registration license in place. You may also need a pavement license if you intend on introducing counters, benches and chairs where customers and drivers can wait.

As per the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, which groups land and buildings into ‘classes’ for planning purposes, takeaways that serve hot food are classed under the A5 planning use category, with a separate classification (A3) for restaurants that serve food on the premises. Read more about these classifications on GOV.UK.

However, in 2020 the UK government changed the planning laws so that restaurants could offer takeaway services without submitting a full ‘change of use’ planning application; this is a temporary change until 23rd March 2022 and was introduced to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your local authority’s planning department may still require you to contact them with information about how you intend to operate your restaurant delivery service so you should always do your research before telling customers they can get their favourite dishes delivered to their door.

How to set up a food delivery service

Once you’ve decided that you’re happy to offer food deliveries, how can you pivot successfully and start taking takeaway orders? Here is how to set up a UK food delivery service in five steps.

1. Decide how you’ll deliver

One of your first decisions is to figure out whether you’d like to manage deliveries in-house, or hire a third party restaurant delivery service. Do you want to ‘own the delivery experience’ and interact with customers yourself, or would you prefer a third party to take the weight off your shoulders?

2. Create a designated space

Do you have a suitable area outside your restaurant where drivers can collect food? You may want to ensure your sit-down dining experience isn’t affected by a horde of moped drivers waiting in the wings.

3. Ensure you can take payments

It’s one thing to take payments with a card machine, but if you’re offering a home delivery service, how will you get paid? You could look into other payment solutions, like online or phone payments. In addition to taking payments, it’s also important to ensure your staff receive training on managing deliveries, and are equipped with all the tech they need – from tablets to POS terminals.

4. Create a menu

Do you want a bespoke takeaway menu that’s different to your one for those dining in? You may want to consider which dishes will still taste the best even after being boxed up and transported across town (more on this in the next point). You can design a restaurant menu through tools like Adobe InDesign, Canva and Lightspeed (although there are many tools out there so you should always do your research).

5. Decide on packaging

Is your food well-suited to delivery? While a pizza might fit snugly into a takeaway box, scolding hot soup may be another matter. By investing in quality packaging – and recyclable materials where possible – you could help maintain your rapport with your customers and reduce the likelihood of complaints.

There is lots to mull over when it comes to starting a delivery service. If it helps, you could even write a special business plan for your delivery service to outline how you expect to operate.

After you’ve set up your delivery business

Once you’re up and running and taking takeaway orders, what next?

It’s important to promote your delivery service so that customers know they can call you (or order online) when their stomachs are rumbling. For some pointers, read our guide on how to market a business.

Plus, you never know how many people will place an order on any given day, so you may wish to monitor your stock levels to ensure you have capacity to fulfil orders without any delays.

What’s more, building good relationships and establishing clear communication with your delivery team – whether in-house or a third party – could help you ensure the delivery operation remains smooth.

Alternatives to setting up a food delivery service

Not quite ready to take the plunge and offer a full delivery service? You could always try a hybrid model, where you offer Click and Collect for customers who want to order online and pick-up their food in the restaurant. Alternatively, you could partner with a pub or bar that doesn’t serve food and deliver to the customers at their premises, perhaps within walking distance to save on delivery costs. Or in the age of contactless ordering, you may be happy to stick with a restaurant-only service and take advantage of innovations like QR codes.

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This has been prepared by Tyl by NatWest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.

Tyl by NatWest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.

Tyl by NatWest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.

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